When Mark of the Beast and End Times Outrank Available Evidence, Conspiracies Follow
Since January 2013, writers at Irregular Times have been pointing out the problems in the conspiracy theory insisting that the “Obamacare” health care law requires all Americans to be forcibly implanted with RFID-trackable microchips starting this year. The biggest problem with this claim is empirical: if you read the text of the law yourself, you’ll notice that no such mandate actually exists.
Yet despite the empirical reality that the Obamacare law contains no provision for RFID-trackable implanted microchips, visitors to Irregular Times continue to insist in our comments section that the plan is coming to pass. Strikingly, they use eschatalogical Christian language of the “end times” leading up to an apocalypse. A sample:
“People want to hide their secrets but now with those chips thing… That’s a cruel thing. I have read in the bible that it is a Mark Of the Beast. why Obama you did this ;(
…Good luck to you when you eventually die and see the gates of Heaven closed to you. The mark of the beast will be taken in the forhead or in the RIGHT HAND. I’m trying my best to put the 666 together. I’ve already got the first: B-A-R-A-C-K
…If that chip is to signify the mark of the beast then in the end every one will be forced to have one those who don’t get the implant will be executed. Or put into special camps because we don’t fit into obamas plan without the chip wait you’ll see the next 3 yrs or so it’s all going to get ugly. So which side are you goin to be on Obama or our lord GODS I know what side I’m on and it’s not obamas.”
Is the rise in this kind of conspiracy theory associated with a rise in Christian eschatalogical thinking in America? Is the acceptance of theories that contradict observable reality associated with a rejection of the importance of observable reality? To obtain a measure of the cultural trends that might produce such credulity in the face of available evidence, I’ve consulted the Google Ngrams dataset. The Ngrams search tool produces data showing how often English-language phrases appear in the millions of books that Google has scanned for inclusion in its Google Books database. I’ve sub-selected the corpus of English-language books published in the United States. The y-axis in the graph below marks how often the phrases “mark of the beast” and “end times” (two key phrases from Christian eschatology) appear, compared to “available evidence suggests” and “statistical trend” (two key phrases from the empiricist community), measured as their proportion of all phrases in books. The x-axis in the graph measures the trend in the appearance of these phrases across the years 1900 to 2008, the last year for which data is available.
If what’s being written about in books is a reasonable marker of cultural trends, then over the past generation a trend is clear: while discussion of a “statistical trend” remains flat and notes of what “available evidence suggests” have fallen, mentions of “end times” and the “mark of the beast” have soared. We’re less occupied in what’s in front of our eyes and more occupied with what is supposed to exist behind a murky veil.